Exclusive interview with Professor Shuji Nakamura, inventor of the first high brightness gallium nitride LED

October 29,2010

The global LED industry is in a constant a flux, with breakthrough innovations in lighting design and technology. To gain more insight on future prospects of the LED industry, LEDinside recently conducted an exclusive interview with Professor Shuji Nakamura, inventor of the first high brightness gallium nitride (GaN) LED, a revolutionary source of light which won him the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize, the engineering equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

Exclusive interview with Professor Shuji Nakamura, inventor of the first high brightness gallium nitride LED

Energy efficiency is the key driving force behind consumer purchases

Addressing future developments in the LED lighting market, Professor Nakamura expressed that in order for rapid adoption of LED lighting to take place in general illumination, its full energy-saving potential has to be achieved. There has to be technological advancements such as preventing efficiency droop, improving extraction efficiency (approximately 90%), and increasing reliability through achieving longer life time. “Without improvements in these aspects, LEDs for general illumination is quite tough,” he added.

Another key to accelerating the adoption of LED lighting in general illumination is cost of ownership. Reducing cost of ownership requires a combination of lowering the cost of LED light bulb and lowering energy consumption, thereby making cost savings over time compelling enough for consumers to purchase the LED light bulb for household use.

Progress of LED lighting adoption in regional markets

Comparing the progress of LED lighting adoption in regional markets, Nakamura explained that, awareness toward energy-efficiency is relatively high in Japan, where consumers pay attention to lighting efficiency and quality to light. However, regulations in the Japan market may hamper the development of LED lighting. In comparison, the Korean market is more price sensitive; therefore, the retail price of LED bulbs is a major hurdle for lighting manufacturers. Nakamura envisioned that one day, the cost of LED bulbs would fall to the same level as incandescent bulbs.

LED backlighting in the portable devices segment

The mobile phone and portable devices market, such as notebook and tablet PC, is a segment where LED backlighting is widely adopted. With the continual improvements in brightness and energy efficiency, LED backlighting is expected to become mainstream. Nakamura noted, “Interestingly, LED was developed even before cellular phone was introduced to the market.” [The first practical visible-spectrum (red) LED was developed in 1962 by Nick Holonyak Jr., while the first handheld cellular phone was demonstrated by Martin Cooper in 1973.]

The target for luminous efficacy is at 200 lumens/watt for LED lighting products, but Nakamura is optimistic about its development, indicating that 250 lumen/watt is feasible by 2015.

Professor Nakamura is currently a professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara.




 

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